Somewhere on the Internet, people are talking about you, your brand, your products or services. But do you know where? Are you listening?
Brand or social media monitoring helps you to become aware of exactly such conversations – so that you can identify the people involved and, if necessary, join the dialogue. Often there is an opportunity here to make a valuable (non-promotional) contribution to the discussion and thus to start a positive conversation.
With the right tools, you can save yourself an enormous amount of work and not only monitor the reputation of your brand, but also actively influence it.
But the question is: How well do you know about this topic? Do you know the differences between brand monitoring, social listening and social media analytics? Do you know the tools and how to use them? As much as there is on the Internet on these topics, hardly any article is complete. I want to change that with this one.
This comprehensive article has all the relevant aspects ready for you. I want to show you the differences, why monitoring is worthwhile for you, what the process looks like and which tools could be useful to you.
What is social media monitoring?
Stephan Röbbeln, Stefanie Aßmann and Thorsten Ising, the authors of “Social Media in Companies” (Rheinwerk Verlag) define social media monitoring as “the identification, observation and analysis of the content created by users on the Internet. Given the abundance of data, the The focus of the analysis of brands and products was initially on the various social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, blog, forums) “.
Even if this definition is not yet comprehensive, it creates a basis for delimiting related terms. Before I go into more detail, I would like to answer another key question:
Why is social media monitoring so important?
The number of internet users increases every year, and with it, the number of social media users. According to the 2019 Digital Report from We Are Social and Hootsuite, almost 46% of European Internet users are active on social media. Only very few use a single platform. The most popular platforms among Europeans are Youtube, Facebook and Instagram.
This presents us with the challenge of maintaining a cross-platform overview of our activities and those of the relevant users.
This is exactly where social media monitoring comes in.
A process model for social media monitoring
Based on the process model of the Bundesverband Digitale Wirtschaft (2017, page 11), Alexander Decker presents the process in social media monitoring as a cycle in his book The Social Media Cycle * (see picture below). He wants to ensure that social media monitoring is understood and applied as a continuous process. This process consists of five steps:
The BVDW describes the individual process sections as follows:
- Analysis design: The central task in the first step is to find out where, when and, above all, how people are talking about the company or the competition. The topics to be observed and relevant keywords are determined.
- Data collection: This is about the identification of all subject-relevant sources such as social networks, blogs, forums or websites. The degree of differentiation in the search terms significantly influences the quality of the data collected.
- Data preparation: In this step, the found posts are cleaned of outside sources and posts, spam, code artefacts or duplicates. At the same time, the posts are assigned to specific topics (tagged).
- Analysis: The hoped-for gain in knowledge is generated from the collected data using a wide variety of analyzes (share of voice, assessment of sentiment, topic analysis, identification of opinion leaders and multipliers, relevance and trend analyzes).
- Reporting: In the “last” step, the analysis results are prepared in strategic, analytical and operational perspectives and recommendations for action are derived.
In comparison: Brand Monitoring
General brand monitoring or brand monitoring goes beyond social media monitoring and includes classic websites, online magazines or press portals.
It is not just about quantitative analysis, but also about qualitative analysis. Brand monitoring, according to Daniel Koethe, “is not just about monitoring the number of mentions of your own brand, because there is one question I have to constantly ask myself: Which values (inexpensive, service-oriented, quality) are associated with my brand and how can I influence these values?”
He’s addressing two things:
- As Alexander Decker outlined, monitoring is a continuous process that requires a long-term strategy. Only the identification of opportunities and risks does not lead to any change. This requires consistent action in response to the insights gained. Monitoring, therefore, feeds the marketing communication with valuable impulses regarding target groups, topics and platforms.
- The underlying purpose of a company, i.e. what we call the Brand Purpose or Reason Why, is decisive for evaluating what has been seen. Daniel is convinced that future consumption decisions will be influenced even more by the real motivations of a company. In the course of this, he refers to the Brand Purpose Paper (2018) by Talkwalker, quoting Richard Branson (Virgin) or Howard Schultz (Starbucks), who see it similarly.
Let’s summarize again:
While social media monitoring concentrates exclusively on the identification, observation and analysis of the content created by users on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Co., brand monitoring has the big picture in mind. In addition to quantitative analyzes, brand monitoring also takes qualitative analysis into account, i.e. how is my brand perceived, which values are associated with it, and how can I influence this?
Monitoring, listening, analytics – all the same?
I already hinted at it before …
Monitoring and listening are often incorrectly used synonymously, especially in German. While monitoring describes the pure observation in the sense of a symptom (e.g. “number of mentions of the own brand in the period X …”), the cause can be described by listening (“… due to the sponsoring activities during the soccer World Cup”). To a certain extent, monitoring collects the data that is analyzed for patterns in the context of listening. Monitoring describes the topic; listening describes the emotions behind it.
Dan Neely, founder and managing director of the social media analytics company Networked Insights, describes the distinction very aptly:
“Monitoring sees the trees; listening sees the forest”.
Philipp Rodewald puts it in the interview for this article: “With social media monitoring, data is more likely to be collected, for example to evaluate the effectiveness or the success of a campaign, to measure the digital reputation or to be actively armed against shit storms. In contrast, with social listening it is primarily a matter of directly implementing the knowledge gained and developing new strategies. “
Again, the analysis should not be confused with social media analytics. Because, according to Jan Bartels, it is about “evaluating your own social media activities and not about finding and analyzing user-generated content. In social analytics, for example, the likes, shares and, in general, the engagement on corporate accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Co. analyzed “.
- Monitoring focuses on the individual mentions, such as shares, likes, posts, retweets, which are set via the various social media platforms.
- Listening determines the underlying meaning and broader context of this data.
- Analytics evaluates your own social media activities, such as shares, likes and analyzes the entire engagement on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Co.
Nine reasons why monitoring is worthwhile for every company (and also for individuals)
Monitoring enables you to listen to your target group (e.g. your customers) where they can talk about you or your company without being disturbed. From this, you gain new knowledge and can react accordingly.
Overall, there are many different possible uses for monitoring, the nine most important ones we will look at below.
- Inventory (zero measurements) The basis of every social media strategy should be an analysis of the current situation to find out which platforms the target group is on and which topics they are discussing there. Such so-called social media audits (not to be confused with a content audit !) Can easily be handed over to external agencies, as the appropriate tools are available to them and they have the necessary specialist knowledge and experience.
- Complaint & crisis management Tracking down critical posts in blogs or forums ( e.g. through alerts via Google or alert.io ) is perhaps the most common reason for using monitoring. E-commerce companies, in particular, are very interested in catching criticism as quickly as possible to be able to react accordingly. By intervening in discussions at an early stage, worse things can often be prevented (I’m just saying: Shitstorm). In the worst-case scenario, you will gain a little time to prepare for the impending crisis.
- Customer service Social media are increasingly becoming the first point of contact for questions about products and services. It is not uncommon for people to address this directly to the public in the hope of finding other customers with the same questions and possibly suitable answers. This habit is a good chance to shine when it comes to service – and not just on your website but beyond. Anyone who also helps with general topics where their products are not the focus will score extra points. Over time, such a community develops and virtually makes customer service independent, as customers help each other.
- Market research & product development Stefanie Assmann describes this aspect in her book as follows: “In order to know what wishes and needs your own customers have, it makes sense to ask them or to analyze on the social web what ideas and approaches consumers have with regard to your products or discuss relevant topics. You just have to accept and implement these suggestions for improvement”. The customer often uses the evaluation function for this by expressing his personal opinion and sometimes also the potential for optimization of a certain product or the company (for example, via the Net Promoter Score). Also, the “wisdom of the many” results in group decisions instead of individual decisions) new ideas and suggestions for improvement. Sometimes people can be filtered out and directly involved in the development process of new products. The customer (consumer) becomes the producer (producer). He is given a new role, that of the so-called “prosumer “.
- Opinion research and identification of influencers Social media monitoring can generally record the mood of consumers and identify supporters or opponents of your own company. Konrad Hippius adds in an interview that “monitoring tools provide externally accessible, company-critical information that can, among other things, prove the success or failure of campaigns. This also includes a precise evaluation of multipliers. Monitoring tools give companies access to demographic information, for example Data on the target audience of influencers, their average engagement rate by post and their actual reach. If you want to use social influencers as multipliers, you should research thoroughly for the right influencers. “
The audience of such multipliers can be used to influence the general perception of a brand or opinion on a product. Recently, bloggers have been the focus of attention, because, as I rightly believe, companies are increasingly focusing on blogger relations (you can also find more opinions on this topic in Mike Schnoor’s blog parade from 2013). Monitoring tools, according to Konrad, also provide help at this point through innovative keyword searches. The same naturally applies to other multipliers in the form of media. “Companies can also draw conclusions for the selection of future multipliers by evaluating ongoing or past campaigns – what worked and what could have gone better? Based on this data-based approach, monitoring tools can support companies in identifying and addressing potential multipliers.”
Get to know your audience through monitoring.
Overall, you will get to know your target group better through monitoring. For example, use it during the conception of your products (including content). You will be able to identify the pain points more quickly and incorporate user feedback into production. In this way, you can create and position your marketing activities and communication, but above all your products, in an even more targeted manner. A wide variety of areas in the company can benefit from this newly acquired information.
6. Controlling / success measurement Anyone who wants to evaluate the success of social media measures must collect information. There is still no agreement on relevant key figures (more on this in a moment), but if certain target values have been defined in advance, a statement can be made through monitoring whether the expectations have been met or not.
7. Competition observation In the same way that you gather information about your business, you can also observe and benchmark the competition. Also, you can identify market entrants relatively quickly and, for example, get in touch with dissatisfied customers of the competition. Another possibility to use monitoring sensibly in this context is to “copy” the social media concepts of the competition. The decisive factor here, however, is that you do not adopt these methods 1: 1, but instead make use of the experiences and learnings from the campaigns. An adaptation to your needs and of course the target group is always necessary!
8. Recognize trends and find ideas Have you ever researched what topics customers talk about in connection with your company? Perhaps the questions that arise serve as the basis for an article in the corporate blog or a how-to video …
9. Employer branding Hand on heart, who is looking exclusively offline for the right job these days? As good as nobody, I would think. Therefore, it has become all the more important for companies to know about their appearance in the search results. Do you know which pages Google and Co. spit out apart from your homepage when you search for your name or company? The opposite is true, however. Companies can also use the (social) web to search for potential employees. Searchers often publish searches themselves on the blog or other platforms. The best examples are Christine Dingler (not linked due to missing HTTPS) or Julian Grandke.
The bottom line is that the entire company benefits from monitoring and listening, not just marketing & PR, service or product development.
Case studies: How companies benefit from monitoring
One of my favourite examples of social listening is Netflix. Have you checked out her Twitter bio?
Netflix knows its audience … millennials who are used to having friends who only exist online; crave attention; research before buying; value the opinions of colleagues more than those of film stars; Live for humour, self-irony and sarcasm … take advantage of this skillfully by posting humorous tweets, retweeting opinions even from “small users” and working with influencers.
You say yourself:
“When we aren’t posting, we’re listening, looking for the new trends igniting the entertainment world” ( Shorty Awards )
But using data from the social web only for your activities on the social web means leaving potential behind. “The use of social media data has changed a lot in recent years. In the beginning it was the social media teams and community managers who dealt with topics such as brand monitoring and reputation management, now it is increasingly the “big data” departments of the company,” says Thomas Grünberg.
The UK retailer Coop is successfully showing how it is done: The team can access the data from anywhere at any time (in this case via Brandwatch) to examine the public mood on sustainability issues and to incorporate the insights gained directly into their daily work. Also, Coop has already been able to prevent serious crises through intelligent alerts and immediate action.
L’Oreal has a similar approach. There, social listening is an essential part of the product development cycle, helping the company identify industry trends and uncover what consumers are asking for. In an interview with Brandwatch, Adrienne Rostaing, Market Insights & Data Manager, also said:
“Social allows us to refocus our actions on the present moment, tracking and adapting in real time to continuously improve the link with our consumers.”
Social listening helps L’Oreal keep track of reviews, ratings, and conversations. The company believes that it is important for the beauty industry representatives to be everywhere as the buying process for consumers is getting faster and faster. That’s why they also work closely with bloggers and social media influencers.
For other impulses, I recommend you take a look at the websites of the major providers. Almost all of them present case studies there.
Start with monitoring in 6 steps.
Social media have long been part of the marketing mix, but many companies still struggle with the area of monitoring. This is hardly understandable when we consider that listening – especially in social networks – should come first …
Although data is often collected, the resources and structures for further processing are then lacking.
Is it because of a lack of strategy? Or is the approach not clear?
It’s not rocket science …
- First, think about what you want to achieve through social media monitoring? Do you want to optimize the service, or is it about generating new content for social media communication? Define SMART goals and make sure they have a measurable metric.
- If you are dealing with the topic of monitoring for the first time, you should watch your brand and your competitors. The basis for your monitoring is accordingly brand and product keywords, but you can also include people from the public or observe certain topics or even customers.
- When it comes to selecting the right channels and platforms, the various service providers for social media monitoring will support you. Nevertheless, it would help if you decided in advance whether, for example, your own social media profiles or websites should be the subject of monitoring, as the selection of the monitoring tools also depends on this.
- The more precisely you have worked out points 1-3, the easier it will be for you to choose a suitable service provider or tool, because not every provider will be able to meet all points. As part of an offer or a test phase, specific ideas can also be gained about the scope and quality of the results, as well as the expected costs. Accordingly, resources can be realistically planned internally and made available.
- The various responsibilities must also be clarified in advance. Once the management is on board, experience has shown that the other departments can be involved. Furthermore, an initial workflow for using the tools and processing the insights should already be designed.
- Finally, it would help if you considered the possibility of regular reports. At best, these contain quantitative data that summarizes the developments as well as qualitative data from which you can jointly derive specific recommendations for action.
Note: This list contains only points of orientation and is not a rigid framework. Professional social media monitoring requires thorough preparatory work – regardless of whether you are designing your strategy or considering it as part of your content marketing or communication strategy. If you carefully penetrate this field right from the start, you will waste fewer resources and achieve more sustainable success.
The six most important KPIs for social media monitoring
KPI stands for Key Performance Indicator and represents business performance indicators with the help of which you can measure the progress or degree of achievement of your goals. These six, explained performance indicators are particularly important for social media monitoring:
- The share of voice defines how often your brand is mentioned compared to the competition. In other words, how big the share in the overall communication on a topic or product is. The Share of Voice can also be applied to the various platforms. This enables a direct comparison of the performance.
- The share of buzz, also known as the buzz volume, describes the number of relevant contributions to a search term in a certain period.
- The image value has long been used in the PR area and reflects the approximate willingness of users to recommend it. The more positive the value, the greater the willingness of the user or customer to recommend a product.
- The reach indicates how high the number of potential readers is. This is easier to determine with individual social media posts than with forums and blogs because monitoring tools have no direct access to such non-public platforms.
- The number of active users describes all users who have a minimum amount of interaction and thus generate reach.
- Engagement stands for all shares, likes and comments on a post. If this value is high, it speaks for relevant content.
What else should I watch?
As in other corporate areas, the KPIs from the monitoring only reflect the hard facts. The context in which the mentions take place, for example, is not taken into account. However, to get a comprehensive analysis, you should relate the results to other activities.
The following contextual dimensions could be instructive:
- Period and time of the brand or product mention: When were the mentions (seasonal / time)? Are campaigns running at the same time, or is there a major social event or industry-relevant event taking place?
- Who is talking about your brand and your products? Is it your employees, such as members of the public (board of directors, speakers, etc.) or press officers? Is it an influencer or a customer?
- Where do the users come from (both socio-geographically and in terms of channels)?
- What topics do you use to position your brand? What topics does your brand appear in the discussions about? How big is the discrepancy?
Also, you should not only consider text content when monitoring but also visual content. Because “nowadays social media is becoming more and more visual and the importance of image contributions and user-generated content is continuously increasing,” says Angelika Schwarzkopf. “In addition to text analysis, image analysis is now essential for comprehensive social media evaluation. Image analysis also opens up a completely new dimension of conversation in social networks. Photos in social media not only provide insight into the personal living environment of users, but often also reflect them They reflect their attitudes and experiences with brands and products, they provide an insight into the consumption situation. This allows brand associations and knowledge of consumer behavior to be derived. In addition to consumer insights, numerous other areas of application of logo recognition emerge. Sponsoring activities can be evaluated more precisely, for example. It can also be used for brand protection or influencer management.”
So. You know what brand monitoring, social listening, etc. is and you also know why it is worthwhile for you too.
You know the key performance metrics, and you now have a rough system to get started.
What is missing are probably just the right tools …
A comparison of social media monitoring tools
Before we try to select a suitable one from the huge list of available brand & social media monitoring tools, Konrad recommends a look at a few of the most important criteria:
- Service level (can I manage on my own or do I need a service provider?)
- Automation (does artificial intelligence help me or do I have to do everything manually?)
- Price (how intensively will I use the tool and what value do I generate from it?)
- Coverage (how large is the source base on which the evaluation is based?)
In the following, I have put together a list of some interesting monitoring tools, without claiming to be exhaustive, as I have not yet tested every tool extensively. If you have experience with special tools, please add them by comment! In the end, the choice is one thing above all: a matter of taste! Because real advantages or disadvantages are really difficult to find.
- Brandwatch – I probably don’t have to say much about Brandwatch. As the market leader, they offer social listening in all possible facets, from targeted brand search to real-time alerts for stored queries. With Brandwatch Audience, you can also analyze your target group more precisely and thereby identify relevant influencers; With Brandwatch Vizia, it is possible to visualize your data appealingly.
- Talkwalker – Social Analytics, Listening, and Influencer Management in one and that with the help of artificial intelligence in real-time. Also, I have had extremely good experiences with the support here.
- Meltwater – This tool also filters the generated data with the help of artificial intelligence to show a comprehensive picture of your company, the industry and your competitors
- quietly – According to your information, you can measure up to 350 different metrics with quintly and optimize your social media activities with the help of data. I haven’t used the tool very intensively, but I hear it keeps getting better. 😉
- Audiense – The segmentation of your audience is possibly Audiense’s hobbyhorse. With their help, you can meaningfully cluster your target group “all” based on demographic data, interests or activities and, based on this, specify your marketing measures.
- Mention – Use Mention for real-time media monitoring and social listening, competition analysis, influencer research or custom insights and reporting. I find the linking of alerts with information about the author (“influencer scoring”) and the possibility of reacting directly to them (Twitter, Facebook & Instagram) particularly practical.
- Webbosaurus ~ With this “intelligent and intuitive” monitoring tool, you can analyze the mood of your users on the web as well as identify influencers and observe the development over time.
- Google Alerts (free) – Once you have stored your specific keywords (e.g. your brand name or your own), you will be kept up to date on all web content relevant to you.
I leave out other well-known names such as Swat.io, Dirico, Hootsuite, SEMrush, Facelift or contentbird because they are more to be understood as content and social media management platforms and rudimentary monitoring and/or analytics as one of several Features included.
Conclusion: Monitoring is a must, only the scope is individual
Listening is the first step in being able to say the right thing. This is just as true in the social web as it is in the “real” world.
Monitoring should, therefore, not be an issue at all.
The larger a company is, the more there is likely to be observed, but the more meaningful and necessary monitoring becomes.
In practice, a company can use many professional tools to automate a large part of the data collection and processing. Nevertheless, part of the analysis and, above all, the interpretation should only be semi-automated or even completely manual in order not to make wrong decisions based on incorrect findings. As Albert Einstein put it so beautifully: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”